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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 1, 2009
By Saranac Hale Spencer
NEW SCOTLAND Long active in town and school functions, Roselyn Robinson is making her first run for town office.
Robinson, 52, is a lawyer who owns a private practice in town and had been the chair of the Commercial Zone Advisory Committee, which was charged with reviewing the town’s zoning code to bring it in line with the comprehensive plan after Sphere Development sparked debate about zoning when it proposed a Target-anchored shopping center almost two years ago. The committee dissolved.
Robinson distinguished between residential, agricultural, and commercial-scale wind turbines when asked about zoning for wind energy. For agricultural use, she said, a farmer doesn’t need town approval if he meets certain state requirements.
For individual use, the town should create set-back requirements and address noise issues, she said. Commercial-scale wind farms, Robinson said, should have stricter regulation than that for individual residents. She’s unsure that there is even enough space for a commercial wind farm to be viable, Robinson said, but she’s still gathering information.
Also, she said, since this kind of industry and the zoning that regulates it is new, it is important to share information with other municipalities.
What’s been missing on the town board over the course of the development controversy, Robinson said, is a meeting of the minds. Those with differing points of view should sit down to talk, she said. Noting the state’s Open Meetings Law, which doesn’t allow a quorum to meet without public notice, Robinson said that it could be an open meeting in a workshop format.
Regarding water, Robinson said that there are sources in town, aquifers the obstacle is getting the water to people. She also said that the town could be more pro-active in negotiating with the neighboring town of Bethlehem, which owns a reservoir located in New Scotland.
The town’s comprehensive plan could be updated, Robinson said. “There are some disparities that could be tweaked,” she said. “There could be some changes, not a massive overhaul.”
When the plan was written, things like wind turbines weren’t an issue, she said, so they aren’t addressed. Of the plan and laws governing zoning as a whole, she concluded, “Current zoning law is pretty protective.”
Agriculture should “absolutely” be promoted in areas conducive to growing, she said, adding that the commercial zone, which has been used largely as farmland, should be developed commercially.
“To eat up our commercial district for anything but commercial is against the comprehensive plan,” she said.
“Clustering is clearly a good idea,” Robinson said, explaining that it helps to preserve open space. Of the commercially zoned land at the intersection of routes 85 and 85A, she said that there is a good opportunity for residents in the soon-to-be developed Kensington Woods residential development to walk to shopping in the abutting commercial zone.
Robinson applauds citizens who offer their views, she said, but at some meetings over the last year-and-a-half, it got out of control and should have been “gaveled down.” The key is letting everyone speak, she said, which leads to civil discussion. “Sometimes people’s emotions get the better of them,” she said.
It’s incumbent on the board members to go outside of their circles to hear opinions on all sides of an issue, Robinson said. Board members must listen to constituents, but also know who the majority is, she said, adding that, just because people may claim to represent the majority, that doesn’t necessarily make it so.
The vocal citizens’ group called New Scotlanders 4 Sound Economic Development often claims to represent the views of most residents of the town. The group stridently opposes Robinson.
The planning board’s job, she said, is to look at the zoning law and the set of facts presented to it by the applicant and apply the law. It is not designed to respond to the will of the public, she said; it needs to follow the law.
“This one issue has polarized people so much,” Robinson said in discussing the role of political parties. Parties used to be defined by principles, she said, and a cap on the allowable size for a retail store which is supported by LaGrange is not a Republican stance.